SANDY — It took 166 games for it to happen — but it finally did.
Real Salt Lake forward Robbie Findley netted the franchise's first hat trick in its fifth season of MLS play. His three goals helped propel the team to a 4-1 win over the defending champion Columbus Crew on Thursday night at Rio Tinto Stadium.
"I think the last time I got three goals was when I was a little kid," said Findley. "Especially at this level, it feels good."
To say a scoring outburst like that has been a long time coming for Findley may be an understatement. Not since his first game with RSL against D.C. United in June of 2007 has the 23-year-old forward had a multi-goal game.
"We've wanted a night like that for Robbie Findley for a while now," said coach Jason Kreis. "The staff and the entire team has a lot of belief in what Robbie Findley can be. He showed some of it tonight. It wasn't a perfect game for him, though. I thought there were some plays he didn't do as well as he could have, but in the end, he finished his opportunities."
Findley earned his three goals by his hustle and putting himself in the right places on the field, but he was also the beneficiary of a couple of mistakes by Columbus' goalkeeper William Hesmer. Findley's first goal came in the second minute. Hesmer misplayed a dipping shot on a free kick off the foot of Will Johnson. He saved the shot, but failed to push it out of danger.
The ball landed right at the feet of Findley where he calmly slotted it home.
His second goal came from an even more glaring error by the keeper. Columbus scored in the 22nd to tie the game, but Findley gave RSL back the momentum seven minutes later when he hustled after a ball that was passed back to Hesmer.
What should have been an easy clearance went directly into the feet of Findley. The speedy forward took the ball and dribbled around the keeper putting the ball into the empty net.
"I had him beat, so I took a look over my shoulder and saw I had time. I just wanted to make sure it went in the net," Findley said of the goal.
The hat trick came in the 62nd minute and pretty much iced the game. Findley split between two defenders to get his head on the end of a Yura Movsiyan cross and hit it perfectly into the lower-left corner of the net.
After RSL went scoreless in the opener in Seattle, it was a nice feeling for both Findley and the team to break through on the scoreboard. But according to Findley, there was never any doubt that the scoring was coming for him and the team.
"I think everyone in this locker room believes we can do it. We are going to get the opportunities," he said. "It is just staying focused and be able to put it away."
E-MAIL: [email protected]